Parasomnia (2008)


USA. 2008.


Director/Screenplay – William Malone, Producer – Jane Hamilton, Photography – Christian Sebaldt, Music – Nicholas Pike, Visual Effects Supervisor – Gene Warren III, Visual Effects – Dartford Effects, Makeup Effects – KNB EFX Group Inc (Supervisors – Howard Berger & Greg Nicotero), Additional Makeup Effects – Nextage FX, Production Design – Katherine G. Vallin, Automatons Created by Obscure Artifacts (Supervisor – Jeff Farley). Production Company – Rising Storm Productions


Dylan Purcell (Danny Sloan), Cherilyn Wilson (Laura Baxter), Patrick Kilpatrick (Byron Volpe), Jeffrey Combs (Detective Garrett), Dov Tiefenbach (Billy Dornboss), Timothy Bottoms (Dr Emil Corso), Jeff Doucette (Detective Conroy), Philip Newby (Phil), Janet Tracy Keijser (Sara), Malcolm Foster Smith (Lewis), Sean Young (Madeline Volpe), Louis Graham (Dr Egon Bhyle)


Art student Danny Sloan is visiting a friend who has been placed in a psychiatric institution. He wanders into a neighbouring room and becomes captivated by Laura Baxter, a patient who suffers from Kleine-Leven Syndrome, or parasomnia, wherein she has spent most of her life since birth asleep, only occasionally waking up for brief periods before lapsing again. Imprisoned in the next room is serial killer Byron Volpe, known for hypnotising his victims into killing themselves. Volpe has been has been entering Laura’s sleeping dreams. When Danny learns that Laura is due to be moved to the sleep institute of Dr Egon Bhyle who has been accused of the deaths of patients, he determines not to let this happen. He sneaks in and abducts Laura from the hospital, taking her back to his place. In her waking periods, Laura marvels at discovering many everyday things about the world for the first time. However, Volpe is angered at Danny freeing Laura. From a distance, he enters her mind and gets her to kill several people, which has Danny hunted by police. Volpe then breaks out of the hospital and comes after Laura, determined that she will be his.

William Malone is a genre fan who has had a sporadic career as a director and writer. Malone started work at Don Post Studios, a studio that specialised in making life masks of famous monsters, where he purportedly designed the Michael Myers mask for Halloween (1978). Malone raised $74,000 to make his directorial debut, the low-budget monster movie Scared to Death (1980) and went onto make the better budgeted alien nasty film Titan Find/Creature (1984). These were sufficient to gain him a sporadic career directing genre tv over the next decade. Malone had his greatest success as director of the remake of House on Haunted Hill (1999), followed by the internet horror FeardotCom (2002). He also delivered script work on Universal Solider: The Return (1999) and Supernova (2000), which he was also originally set to direct before being replaced. Parasomnia is his only other directorial work to date, a film he put up the money to make himself.

If nothing else, William Malone creates something unusual and different with Parasomnia, even if you feel that he doesn’t fully succeed. The film catches interest from the vivid opening credits, all bright patterns that look like whorls of paint and solarised footage. It could be something like a colour version of the distinctive credits sequence for William Castle’s The Night Walker (1965). For some time in, we have the sense of a film where you are unable to predict where it is going. It starts like a variant on The Mind of Mr. Soames (1969) about a man waking up with a blank child’s mind and during the later scenes becomes something akin to Beyond Bedlam (1994) about a serial killer imprisoned in a hospital who invades people’s dreams. During the early scenes, we get several ventures into Cherilyn Wilson’s dreamscape, which unfortunately looks like a cheap CGI version of the Hell from Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988).

The scenes with Cherilyn Wilson brought into the outside world are intriguing – with her discovering things like grass, city lights and even food for the first time. However, William Malone gives the impression he doesn’t want to spend too much time dwelling on these. Unfortunately, Parasomnia becomes far less interesting once it enters into outright horror territory. Patrick Kilpatrick is essentially another Hannibal Lecter, although this is a less well conceived Lecter – Malone seems unaware of some of the basic facts about hypnotism, such as the common misnomer that it is conducted by looking into the hypnotist’s eyes, resulting in what would surely be regarded as a highly unethical practice for any psychiatric institution where Kilpatrick has to be kept imprisoned behind a metal hood that permanently covers his eyes. The 6’2″ Kilpatrick is usually cast as hulking thugs and killers but Volpe is a much more eloquent villain than he generally gets to play and allows him to expand his range for once. There is a highly unusual climax set around a clockwork orchestra. That said, at this point, Parasomnia is heading in fairly predictable genre directions.

Malone gets an interesting cast of moderately well-known names together, including genre regulars such as Jeffrey Combs. Others such as Timothy Bottoms and especially Sean Young, who appears only in a single scene at the start in which she jumps off the roof, give the appearance that Malone could only afford them for at most a day or two of shooting.

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